From misery to mogul - the real story of O

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 November, 2009, 12:00am
 

Name: Oprah Gail Winfrey

Age: 55

Birthplace: Kosciusko, Mississippi

Discovered: Born to an unwed teenage couple who split after her birth, Winfrey spent her childhood shuffling between poor relatives. She has frequently spoken of being raped by a male relative at the age of nine, and molested until the age of 14, when she became pregnant (the child was stillborn).

But early signs pointed to her future. When she was three, Winfrey would 'interview' dolls and crows sitting on the fence outside her grandmother's home.

After the birth of her stillborn son, she moved in with her father in Nashville, Tennessee. Her big break came at 17 when a radio station gave her the opportunity to read the news and offered her a job on the spot.

After receiving her bachelor's degree at Tennessee State University, Winfrey became the first black television reporter in Nashville, which led to a reporting job in Baltimore where she co-hosted a show. In 1983, she relocated to Chicago to host a low-rated talk show, AM Chicago. Within months it was the highest-rated programme in Chicago and became The Oprah Winfrey Show.

In September, Forbes estimated her net worth at US$2.7 billion. Her properties include Harpo Productions, a multimedia production company, O magazine, Oprah's Angel Network and the Oprah Winfrey Foundation.

Career achievements: Winner of nine Emmy Awards; has been named 'one of the most influential people in the world' by Time magazine every year from 2004-2008; first woman to own her own talk show; nominated for an Oscar for her first film role in 1985's The Color Purple; entered the NAACP's Hall of Fame in 2005; named both the most influential woman and the most influential black person of her time by Life magazine.

Memorable quotes: 'I knew there was a way out. I knew there was another kind of life because I had read about it. I knew there were other places, and there was another way of being.'

'Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.'

'[My grandmother] used to say, I want you to grow up and get yourself some good white folks, because my grandmother was a maid and she worked for white folks her whole life ... and her idea of having a big dream was to have white folks who at least treated her with some dignity, who showed her a little bit respect ... and I regret that she didn't live past 1963 to see that I did grow up and get some really good white folks working for me.'

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